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42 U.S. Code § 12102 - Definition of disability

As used in this chapter:
(1) DisabilityThe term “disability” means, with respect to an individual—
a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual;
a record of such an impairment; or
being regarded as having such an impairment (as described in paragraph (3)).
(2) Major life activities
(A) In general

For purposes of paragraph (1), major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.

(B) Major bodily functions

For purposes of paragraph (1), a major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.

(3) Regarded as having such an impairmentFor purposes of paragraph (1)(C):
An individual meets the requirement of “being regarded as having such an impairment” if the individual establishes that he or she has been subjected to an action prohibited under this chapter because of an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment whether or not the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity.
Paragraph (1)(C) shall not apply to impairments that are transitory and minor. A transitory impairment is an impairment with an actual or expected duration of 6 months or less.
(4) Rules of construction regarding the definition of disabilityThe definition of “disability” in paragraph (1) shall be construed in accordance with the following:
The definition of disability in this chapter shall be construed in favor of broad coverage of individuals under this chapter, to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of this chapter.
The term “substantially limits” shall be interpreted consistently with the findings and purposes of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.
An impairment that substantially limits one major life activity need not limit other major life activities in order to be considered a disability.
An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.
(i) The determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures such as—
medication, medical supplies, equipment, or appliances, low-vision devices (which do not include ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses), prosthetics including limbs and devices, hearing aids and cochlear implants or other implantable hearing devices, mobility devices, or oxygen therapy equipment and supplies;
use of assistive technology;
reasonable accommodations or auxiliary aids or services; or
learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications.
The ameliorative effects of the mitigating measures of ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses shall be considered in determining whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity.
(iii) As used in this subparagraph—
the term “ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses” means lenses that are intended to fully correct visual acuity or eliminate refractive error; and
the term “low-vision devices” means devices that magnify, enhance, or otherwise augment a visual image.
Editorial Notes
References in Text

This chapter, referred to in text, was in the original “this Act”, meaning Pub. L. 101–336, July 26, 1990, 104 Stat. 327, which is classified principally to this chapter. For complete classification of this Act to the Code, see Short Title note set out under section 12101 of this title and Tables.

The ADA Amendments Act of 2008, referred to in par. (4)(B), is Pub. L. 110–325, Sept. 25, 2008, 122 Stat. 3553. Section 2 of the Act, relating to the findings and purposes of the Act, is set out as a note under section 12101 of this title. For complete classification of this Act to the Code, see Short Title of 2008 Amendment note under section 12101 of this title and Tables.


2008—Pub. L. 110–325 amended section generally. Prior to amendment, section consisted of pars. (1) to (3) defining for purposes of this chapter “auxiliary aids and services”, “disability”, and “State”.

Statutory Notes and Related Subsidiaries
Effective Date of 2008 Amendment

Amendment by Pub. L. 110–325 effective Jan. 1, 2009, see section 8 of Pub. L. 110–325, set out as a note under section 705 of Title 29, Labor.